The lacrosse check is an essential element of the game. The game is very physical and contact is a big part of it. Being aggressive and physical is a very good quality to have for a lacrosse player, especially for defensive and midfield players, but even attackers can benefit from a good checking technique, especially during a loose ball situation. Checking is not an attempt to injure or hurt an opponent and penalty’s can be called for excessively violent or over-aggressive checking. A check may never be below the waste (tripping), above the shoulder (slashing), or from behind for body checks.
A lacrosse check is basically an attempt to:
- Try to dislodge a ball from an opponent by attacking their stick with your stick
- Try to harass or disrupt an attacking player
- Try to block or move an opponent from picking up a loose ball
There are two different basic types of lacrosse checks that can be employed:
- Stick Checks
- Body Checks
Stick Checks are where a player harasses or attempts to dislodge the ball from an opponent’s stick, or when he uses his stick to gain position on an offensive player. Stick checks can be made as long as the attempt is to try to contact the opponent’s stick or glove which is considered part of the stick. Stick checks must be under control and not excessively Violent. You cannot swing the stick like a baseball bat or axe for example.
- Poke Check – This is a type of lacrosse check used by Long pole defensemen who will very often poke check a player by jamming the net end of his stick into the offensive player’s gloved hand or stick. This is done by thrusting the stick much like a lance or spear. Using the net end to keep the offense away from the defensive player and to dislodge the ball if possible. As long as the defensive player can maintain position away from the offensive player they have a much better chance to defend the attack. As soon as the offensive player can get close it is easier for them to get by the defender to take a shot. Footwork is absolutely critical to playing good defense. Like in Basketball maintaining position between the offensive player and the goal is critical. The glove is considered to be part of the stick for purposes of checking so the defender will often aim for the glove and utilize the poke check to keep the offensive player away or to dislodge the ball.
- Slap Check – a lacrosse check where the defending player slaps at the opponent’s stick with his own stick and tries to jar the ball loose. It is important that the attempt is to contact the stick. If the slap check misses the stick usually they will not be called for a foul as long as the slap is on the glove or forearm and the force applied is not excessive. Slap checks are meant to dislodge the ball and harass the offensive player not to hurt them. If an overly aggressive slap is applied officials will likely flag the offender with a personal foul penalty even if the check was within the letter of the law so to speak. While officials tend to allow some latitude on slap checking, A slap check above the shoulder or below the waist is extremely dangerous and that will gain a slashing penalty every time. It is important that proper use of the slap check is reinforced and that abuse is not tolerated. We encourage officials to establish firm slap-check ground rules with teams early in the game so that abuses don’t occur and games get out of hand. I have seen many officials allow way too much in the way of questionable or downright illegal checks and it can be first dangerous and second can totally turn a lacrosse match into a hockey game in a hurry, fights and all. Obviously the younger the players the more strictly the rules should be applied in the interest of safety. The crosse is no longer a weapon regardless of its roots.
- Ice Pick Check –
- Wrap Check – While having two hands on your stick, you run with your opponent and release your bottom hand, then wrap your stick around your opponent’s body. If right-handed, you would throw against a lefty cradler. You are trying to hit the head of his stick. If you miss the check, get both hands back on your shaft ASAP and try again. Out of all the checks, this is the easiest and most effective check.
- Overhead Check – While running with your opponent, you go over his head while your butt end is pointed to the sky. You are trying to come down on his hands or stick. It’s dangerous, but it looks great when you land it! A good check for taller players. Former Hopkins player and current coach Dave Pietramala was the master of this check.
- Lift Check –
- Chop Check –
- Ding Dong Check – While running with an opponent, you lift both hands up like you are going over his head while your stick is in front. Instead of going over his head, you come back down across the front of his body to check his stick. This is an advanced check that is extremely effective once you learn how to throw it properly. Rick Beardsley from Syracuse made this check look easy against first-team All-Americans.
- Kayak Check – Also called the “scissor” check. When a right-handed defenseman is going against a right-handed cradler, a kayak can be thrown. After throwing a butt dig, you come in close like you are doing a dig again. Only instead of digging the butt, you cross your hands while throwing the butt end of your stick at your opponent’s stick head. You have to cross your arms like scissors while reaching with your butt end to hit his stick head. Not many people can throw it effectively. Hopkins great Rob Doerr threw the most effective kayak I have ever seen.
The Body Check is the other basic type of lacrosse check. Body checks can only be performed against the ball carrier or any player within 3 yards of a loose ball. A good example of that would be when a player does a stick check to a ball carrier and knocks the ball to the ground. As players converge to try to scoop the loose ball back up players can basically be blocked away from the ball in an effort to keep them from gaining possession. Except for those two situations, body checking is not allowed. A body check is thrown with a player’s shoulder in a similar manner to how a football player would block for a runner. Tackling is not allowed. Body checks are not allowed at the younger age levels so make sure to check the rules on contact for the age bracket you are playing. Body checks can never be below the waist, above the shoulder, or from behind. Players are never to use their heads as weapons as severe injury can occur.